Africa’s Omicron-fueled COVID-19 wave ending
After a six-week surge, Africa’s fourth pandemic wave, which has been mainly driven by the Omicron variant, is flattening, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
WHO said that this marked the shortest surge since the pandemic began on the continent, where total cases have exceeded 10.2 million.
Recorded cases of infection show that the weekly number plateaued in the seven days leading up to 9 January, from the previous week.
“Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilizing”, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday.
In countries experiencing a surge in cases, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type.
While it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries, according to WHO.
Southern Africa saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave but recorded a 14 per cent decline in confirmed cases over the past week.
And South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a nine per cent fall in weekly infections.
While East and Central Africa regions also experienced falling numbers of cases, North and West Africa are seeing a rise in infections, with North Africa reporting a 121 per cent increase over the past week, compared with the previous seven days.
“The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations”, said the senior WHO official. “The next wave might not be so forgiving”.
While the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, only around 10 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated.
However, vaccine supplies to Africa have improved recently, and WHO is stepping up its support to countries to deliver doses to the wider population.
“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive”, said Dr. Moeti.